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Leading article: Across the universe...

In the end, he was not immortal, as he had from time to time claimed. Even so, the legacy of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi will prove long-lasting. He came to fame when George Harrison introduced the Beatles to him in the decidedly unexotic environs of Bangor in 1967. His message of universal harmony and peace, tinged with just the right quantity of Eastern mysticism, chimed well with the "counter-culture" of the late Sixties and developed into a cult of hippie mysticism. The Beatles, apart from George, soon became jaundiced.

John Lennon wrote the song "Sexy Sadie" ("you made a fool of everyone") about him, claiming he had made sexual advances to their friend the actress Mia Farrow. The guru denied it, saying the pop stars had left in a huff when he reprimanded them for taking drugs in his house. The key thing was that the Maharishi adapted to the times. As the cosmic consciousness of flower power wilted and good vibrations gave way to "greed is good" in the Thatcher/Reagan decade, his transcendental mediation (TM) system became a tool of the self-fulfilment era. Large corporations, such as IBM and Toyota, sent staff on TM courses to lower their stress and improve performance and productivity.

Few believed his more extravagant claims – for example, that it was the collective TM that brought the down Berlin Wall by radiating bliss to the world. But his idea that meditation was not the preserve of adepts with rigorous ascetic disciplines, but one which could help ordinary people was revolutionary. Today, TM is practiced by five million people. Almost alone of the fads of the Sixties, it adapted and survived. The Maharishi is still tuned in, even if he has now dropped out.